At the 2013 IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, Tatuaje Cigars unveiled what would later become one of the more popular releases—at least in craft cigar circles—of that year. The cigar was dubbed simply “Tatuaje 10th Anniversary,” offering the brand’s signature Seleccion de Cazador (aka Tatuaje “Brown Label”) blend in two limited sizes, complete with special banding that helped to distinguish the cigars from their “Brown Label” siblings.
Likewise, the company’s showing at IPCPR 2018 continued in this mindset, introducing the Tatuaje 15th Anniversary. Being a more significant milestone for Tatuaje, the 15th Anniversary has a few more bells and whistles than the former rendition. For starters, the cigars are being produced at the García family’s boutique El Rey de los Habanos factory in Miami—this is where Tatuaje’s first cigars were produced (albeit at the factory’s former location in Little Havana). The blend is similar to the Seleccion de Cazador and is said to be based on a 2004 release that company owner Pete Johnson created for his former employer, Grand Havana Room (an upscale cigar retailer in Beverly Hills, CA). Finally, the Nicaraguan-based blend is rolled in two figurado formats, each featuring two different variations of the same wrapper; a hand-sorted process that highlights the precise selection of an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado-shade leaf (known for its reddish hue).
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Tatuaje 15th Anniversary Rosado Oscuro Torpedo Grande Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Rosado Oscuro
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: El Rey de los Habanos (U.S.A.)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 6½″ × 52 (Torpedo)
- Price: $21.00 (MSRP)
Being produced at the boutique El Rey de los Habanos factory, only a small quantity can be rolled each day, taking away from other Miami-made Tatuaje releases, such as the Tatuaje Reserva K222. Like most other Miami factories, El Rey de los Habanos features highly skilled, Cuban-trained rollers, each overseeing a cigar’s completion from start to finish. This differs from the rolling pairs in other countries, where one torcedor bunches (bunchero) and the other completes the cigar’s wrapper (rolero). This style is more in line with custom-rolled Cuban cigars, of which the earliest Tatuaje blends were intended to emulate.
As mentioned, the cigars feature two variations of the same wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Rosado Oscuro and Ecuadorian Habano Rosado Claro. Each wrapper is secured over Nicaraguan binders and fillers that have been harvested from the García family’s farms, incorporating Criollo and Corojo leaves throughout.
The four possible variations of the Tatuaje 15th Anniversary are listed below:
- Rosado Oscuro Torpedo Grande: 6½″ × 52 (Torpedo) | $21.00
- Rosado Claro Torpedo Grande: 6½″ × 52 (Torpedo) | $21.00
- Rosado Oscuro Belicoso Fino: 5½″ × 52 (Belicoso) | $19.00
- Rosado Claro Belicoso Fino: 5½″ × 52 (Belicoso) | $19.00
Tatuaje 15th Anniversary arrives in one of the more simplistic boxes you will find for any cigar in the ultra-premium price range. These displays are plain, hinged-lid boxes of 10 cigars, sporting a black Tatuaje logo and a subtle banner that signifies the cigars as either Rosado Oscuro or Rosado Claro. The bands are essentially the same as the Tatuaje 10th Anniversary, swapping the primarily brown color scheme for a new white backdrop.
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The cigars are large in stature, primarily due to the torpedo-shaped head, which is one of the most elongated/tapered heads I’ve seen in some time. The wrapper can basically be summed up as a classic maduro in shade, but there are certainly red and orange undertones. This leaf has minimal oils (light to medium) and a texture that is slightly more rough than anticipated. There are flat, well-placed seams from head to toe, joined by a small vein structure. When lightly squeezed, the cigar feels like a medium bunch, with most samples having unfortunate soft spots (usually around the band). The presentation finishes with a closed foot, a common feature of Tatuaje’s more limited releases.
On the wrapper, there are notes of musty basement and tang—an overall subdued aroma. The foot offers slightly more, with a little chocolate and brown sugar added to the aforementioned nuances. The cigar’s impressive head allows for plenty of customization in terms of cut. Clipping the head in a similar location as I would with a standard parejo, the cigar shows a medium draw and flavors of chocolate chip cookies, brown sugar, toasty campfire, and molasses.
With a light, the 15th Anniversary Rosado Oscuro begins with mineral and anise (perhaps the quickest I’ve experienced the latter flavor in a cigar), finishing with campfire toastiness on the palate. It is not overwhelmingly spicy in the first few puffs, but begins building within a couple of minutes. Only light draws are needed to bring in smoke through the cigar’s open draw, showing a thin texture and building flavors of tang, hardwoods, and a subtle sweetness on the finish.
The cigar offers less smoke output than expected (medium-light), considering its effortless draw, but this could simply be how I perceived it, with the thin smoke being harder to detect than normal. The draw seemed to change slightly throughout, moving from somewhat loose to a hair too firm; but I’d peg it as just about right overall. In the first third, the experience is roughly medium in flavor, mild to medium in strength, and mild to medium in body.
Around the one-inch mark is where most of the cigar’s changes occur, with new flavors being added on nearly every puff. This includes soft flavors of vanilla, cocoa, increased anise, sawdust, marshmallow, and powdered sugar (with the last two being somewhat interchangeable). These flavors seem to weave in and out, leading into the cigar’s midsection, which marks (in hindsight) a noticeable transition from sweet to dark/harsh territory.
Unsavory and harsh flavors of burning brush, tar, and blackened spices begin in flashes. There are other flavors that help to keep the enjoyable profile afloat (chile spice and woodsy nuances), but the later portions of the cigar seemed to head in a linear, harsh direction overall. Unfortunately, this resulted in the cigar being extinguished earlier than anticipated on two separate occasions.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Probably not. If I’m buying, I’ll have to pass… although there’s something pulling me to try the cigar in its smaller Belicoso Fino format. This was one of my most anticipated cigars coming out of IPCPR 2018; unfortunately, I just couldn’t find enough positive attributes to give it a spirited recommendation.
- Two Rosado Oscuros and half of a Rosado Claro were smoked during the review process (both in the Torpedo Grande size).
- Taking Tatuaje’s word and assuming the only difference between the two cigar variations is the precise shade sorting, there is a bigger disparity in profile than I anticipated. Both showed the thin smoke, but the natural consisted of butternut squash (very noticeable), sulfur (like freshly fired cap guns), perfume, lots of tang, and various cabinet spices.
- Along with the band differences previously mentioned in the “Appearance” section (comparing the Tatuaje 10th and 15th Anniversary cigars), the new bands also replace the “10” with “15,” the wording “miami” with “usa,” and the wording “tattoo” with “miami.”
- With closed-foot cigars, the question is always whether or not to take puffs while toasting the foot (in order to taste the cigar’s raw wrapper). In a past conversation with Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson, he mentioned that he usually burns straight through the added leaf, toasting as usual. This is the process I used for review samples.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Burning brush
- Blackened spice
- Smoke Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Chocolate chip cookies, Hot cocoa, Pour-over coffee, XO rum
- Purchase Recommendation: Try a single
- Silky smooth smoke
- Refined and subtle sweetness in first third
- Great draw
- Soft spots in construction (resulted in draw and burn inconsistencies)
- Multiple touchups/re-lights (around two–four combined)
- Harsh second half